Fears of unrest in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo after Pristina misses critical deadline

Fears of unrest in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo after Pristina misses critical deadline
A bridge over the Ibar river in Mitrovica, northern Kosovo, that divides the Serb and Albanian sides of the town. / Pudelek (Marcin Szala)
By bne IntelliNews August 5, 2018

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has called Serbs living in Kosovo to react peacefully to Pristina’s failure to form the Community of Serb Municipalities (ZSO).  

August 4 was the deadline for the Kosovan authorities to establish the ZSO, one of the key requirements under the landmark Brussels Agreement between Belgrade and Pristina. This failure has raised fears of unrest in northern Kosovo where Serbs are in the majority. 

Kosovo’s PM Ramush Haradinaj said that the fulfilling of this obligation from Brussels agreement has been delayed "we also need to make sure that it is according to the laws and the Constitution of the country", according to a Kosovan government statement published on August 3, when the prime minister called a security council meeting to discuss the situation. 

“The truth is that I have asked to increase the readiness of law and order institutions throughout the country, in order to maintain law and order, peace across the country in the days to come,” Haradinaj told a press conference following the meeting. 

He added that the security situation was calm “but that increased readiness to act is required, in case of any breach of law and order in the country”.

Meanwhile, as the deadline approached Vucic appealed to Serbs in Kosovo to “not undertake anything in this regard that individuals among the Albanians, or in a part of the international community, will use as an excuse to take any action against you,” he said in his open letter addressed to Serbian citizens in Kosovo, on August 3, B92 reported.

Vucic had repeatedly warned that the deadline would be missed. On August 3, the day before the deadline expired, he wrote that: “one day before the expiration of the latest deadline for Pristina's obligations to establish the Community of Serb Municipalities, and 1,930 days after Pristina with its signature took over that obligation, all the warnings and suspicions that I have been expressing the whole time are being confirmed and are coming true. Pristina will not lift a finger this time either to form the ZSO,” B92 reported.

Addressing Kosovo’s Serbian population, which makes up less than 10% of the country’s total population of just over 1.9mn, Vucic underlined that peace is Serbia’s greatest interest. He added that it is the task of the KFOR mission and Nato is to prevent any possible attempt to take over and seize the Gazivode Hydroelectric Power Plant, the Valac power station, or any other key object of infrastructure that Serbs’ survival depends on, B92’s transcript of Vucic’s letter reads.

“Serbia is ready today to fulfil its commitment to you and to protect your lives and peace, if necessary. While I am at its helm, Serbia will not allow organised violence against the Serbs and their holy places, nor their persecution,” Vucic concluded.

On the same day, Haradinaj warned Serbs in northern Kosovo that any attempt to proclaim autonomy would be met with a response.